Earlier this week, the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan threatened to sue Sacha Baron Cohen, who stars in "Da Ali G Show" on HBO. Cohen specializes in tricking famous people into giving "interviews" to his Ali G character, who pretends to be a "hip-hop journalist." Many of his targets, such as former Secretary of State George Schultz, have no clue who Cohen is and so struggle to answer what they think are odd questions from an actual reporter.
Another of Cohen's characters is "Borat Sagdiyev," supposedly a TV journalist from Kazakhstan, who has a very poor understanding of American customs. In one show, Borat went to a wine-tasting in Texas, gulped each glass of wine and ended up passing around nude pictures of his "sister." In January, he crashed a rodeo in Roanoke, Virginia, after requesting and receiving approval to sing the Kazakh and U.S. national anthems. According to local media, which still appeared to be somewhat mystified by what had happened, police had to rush Borat out of the area to prevent a riot.
What finally made the Kazakhs really mad was Borat's appearance as host of the MTV Europe Music Awards, in Lisbon. Borat arrived in an Air Kazakh propeller plane flown by a one-eyed pilot holding a vodka bottle, and continued to make strange statements about Kazakh culture. On Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yerzhan Ashykbayev threatened legal action.
"We view Mr. Cohen's behavior at the MTV Europe Music Awards as utterly unacceptable, being a concoction of bad taste and ill manners which is completely incompatible with ethics and civilized behavior," he said. To which I have two responses: (1) what's your point? and (2) maybe you should return a few of those calls you've been getting from Human Rights Watch before you get indignant about ethics, Yerzhan.
The Kazakhs seem to think a conspiracy is behind Borat's actions. "We do not rule out that Mr. Cohen is serving someone's political order designed to present Kazakhstan and its people in a derogatory way," said Yerzhan Ashykbayev at a press briefing. He did not specify who he thought might be trying to undermine Kazakhstan via HBO and the MTV Music Awards. "We reserve the right to any legal action to prevent new pranks of the kind."